CHARLESTON — Led by quadruple qualifier Brett Charlton Jr., the Eureka High School track team kept its trophy hopes alive during the Class 1A preliminaries of the 121st state track meet on Thursday.
“We’re still in there,” said Charlton’s coach and father, Brett Sr. “We’ve got (six) scoring opportunities. We’re going to have to move up in some.”
Tolono Unity has the most scoring chances with 10 heading into Saturday’s 10 a.m. finals, followed by Shelbyville (nine), Sterling Newman (seven), Eureka and Carthage Illini West (six).
The younger Charlton is among three Pantagraph area qualifiers already owning state titles along with Tri-Valley’s Derek Wegman and Adam Coulon. They will lead 12 area individuals and four relays into the finals.
The reigning 100-meter dash king, Charlton was the fastest of nine qualifiers in 11.04 seconds.
“Nobody was really fast,” said the Illinois State recruit, whose 2014 school record is 10.73. “I want to defend my title in that so I’ll get my mind focused and come back and do it.”
Charlton advanced fourth in the 400 at 49.80 and split 50.0 in anchoring his 1,600 relay to the ninth and last qualifying spot at 3:28.01, edging Tremont’s school-record unit by one hundredth of a second.
“I was worried about that four-by-400,” said Eureka’s coach, noting the ailing Tommy Standish had to be replaced by Travis Dietrich. “We had some tired kids. We had to make a change.”
If Standish can return Saturday, he could save the Hornets three seconds. The other splits came from Jaxon Rieke (51.6), Logan Ogg (52.4) and Dietrich (54.1).
Charlton Jr. is sitting sixth in the long jump at 21-3½, 10 inches out of first.
“I had two decent jumps,” he said. “My last jump would have put me first or second. It was really nice, but I scratched.”
Wegman, the defending high jump champion, had no trouble making first-attempt clearances at 5-11, 6-1 and 6-3 to make the 15-man final along with Blue Ridge’s Coale Dolbert and Eureka’s Lane Fowler.
Wegman is happy three men made 6-7 or higher in the sectional.
“I’m excited to see what we can do,” said the ISU recruit. “When it comes down to it, it will be who wants it more. The competitiveness is what I live for. I love track and that’s a huge part of it.”
Coulon, Tri-Valley’s 2013 state pole vault champion who missed last year with an injury, took one try at 13-6 to join 12 qualifiers including Tremont’s Nathan O’Connor.
“I felt good,” said the top-seeded Coulon, whose career best is 16-2. “I’m excited. If I’m jumping well (in the finals), I’m happy because there are things you can’t control. I just want to jump good and see if I can get on some big poles.”
O’Connor, the Tremont record holder at 14-6, said his new pole worked well as he took a combined five jumps at four heights.
“I had to go run the four-by-100 in the middle of that,” he said. “I got tired after that, but I still was able to make the qualifying height (of 13-6).”
Dwight qualified third in the 3,200 relay in 8:05.45, breaking the 2014 school record of 8:10.73 set by a sixth-place state team. Taking part were Blaine Livingston (2:00.4), Conor Livingston (2:02.7), John Carter (2:03.5) and Michael Bennett (1:59.0).
“On the last leg of that event I had no competition so if I’d have been in that heat that had an 8:02 (by Robinson), I would have been able to push myself and maybe win it,” Bennett said. “I couldn’t be more thankful for these teammates.”
Flanagan-Cornell sophomore Nick Olson advanced third in the shot put with a heave of 52-4. Only Carthage Illini West’s Blaze Murfin (55-5¼) and Tuscola’s Stephen Gibson (53-5) were better.
“My first throw felt pretty good,” said Olson, who also had marks of 49-4¼ and 48-4¼. “The other two, I kept my head down at the end, which was bad.”
Ridgeview senior William Tinsley added 13 inches to his previous triple jump best to advance fourth at 42-8, scaring Bryce Powell’s 2012 school record of 42-8¾. Tinsley said the key was jumping off a board 40 feet from the pit instead of the usual 36.
“I knew it was going to be a good day,” he added. “Saturday I just want to place like I did at state in basketball, get another medal and bring it home to Colfax.”
PBL junior Nick Porter sped a school record 4:22.87 to advance fifth in the 1,600. His first-year coach is Eureka native Dustin Franckey, who won two state titles in the 3,200, one in the 1,600 and one in cross country.
“He’s been a tremendous help feeding me his knowledge,” Porter said.
Tri-Point senior Brandon Wilkerson advanced seventh in the 1,600 in a personal best of 4:26.40.
“It was a state race so it was do good now or go home,” Wilkerson said. “I didn’t want to go home yet.”
Eureka’s 3,200 relay advanced seventh in 8:08.87 thanks to Standish (2:00.9), Malik Peterson (2:04.2), Dietrich (2:02.5) and Ogg (2:01.3).
“We’re hoping to win it (Saturday),” said Standish, a sophomore who missed last season because of injury.
The 800 relay of Lowpoint-Washburn-Roanoke-Benson qualified eighth in a program record 1:31.16. Handling the baton were Luke Rasmuson, Brody Hinkle, Stone Darrow and Matt West.
“My feet started getting hot right there (on the homestretch),” West said. “That was a good sign.”
Other area qualifiers were Paul Bigham of PBL in the triple jump (7th, 42-1) and Nick Meunier of GCMS in the 200 (9th, 22.79).